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Judge Rules Acting DHS Secretary Lacked Authority To Suspend DACA Program

Photo caption:

Photo by Greg Nash/Pool Getty Images

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, is pictured on Sept. 23. A federal judge said he was not authorized to issue a July memo limiting the restrictions of DACA recipients.

A federal judge in New York City says Chad Wolf was not legally serving as the acting secretary of homeland security when he issued a memo in July that stopped new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Therefore, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York ruled Saturday, Wolf's memo is invalid.

It's the latest court ruling against the Trump administration's attempts to undo the Obama-era program that currently protects about 640,000 young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

In June, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration's attempt in 2017 to cancel DACA, saying the administration's reasoning was "arbitrary and capricious." In July, a federal court in Maryland told the administration to start accepting new applicants.

Instead, Wolf issued a memo on July 28 that, Judge Garaufis wrote, "effectively suspended DACA" pending a Department of Homeland Security review. Wolf's memo said the administration would reject new applicants. It also said the administration would renew protections for immigrants who already have them, but for just one year, instead of two years, which was the previous policy.

Wolf has been serving as acting homeland security secretary since November 2019; he has not been confirmed by the Senate. The last homeland security secretary to be confirmed by the Senate was Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned in April 2019. In August, Trump said he would nominate Wolf to the official job.

The Trump administration has previously been chided by another federal judge and a government watchdog for violating the rules of succession at the Department of Homeland Security.

Judge Garaufis said Wolf's appointment violated the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

He ordered the parties of the case to schedule conferences with the court by Sunday to inform the judge of any planned motions in response to the ruling.

"Today's decision is another win for DACA recipients and those who have been waiting years to apply to the program for the first time," wrote Karen Tumlin of the Justice Action Center, who represents DACA recipients in the case.

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